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Back to School

My first Author Visit to Saint Bede’s High School…

Happy author after a great session

The scene was set. I perched upon the edge of the stage in the hall at Saint Bede’s High School, Lytham, as the hordes of onlooking year 9 pupils entered the assembly hall.

As a youth worker who had visited schools countless times over the last ten years to speak to young people about various topics and issues, I hadn’t prepared myself for the nerves which suddenly consumed me. The harsh realisation jabbed me in the gut; I wasn’t here as a youth worker, I was here as an author… my very first school visit as an author to be precise!

I needn’t had worried though, the pupils were awesome and greeted me with kind eyes, smiles and interested looks. The first act of my two-part cameo at Saint Bede’s High School was to deliver a talk to the whole year group about my journey in to writing; how a regular dude from Blackpool wound up being shortlisted for for Lancashire Book of the Year 2019 with his debut novel, The Disappearance of Timothy Dawson (Book 1 of the Granville Series).

The talk seemed to be well received with nods, hands up and laughs in all the right places. I left the group with a call to action; to give it a go, whether that be writing, or indeed singing, dancing and painting for that matter – if I can do it, anybody can.

A Q&A afterwards prompted allsorts of interesting questions; from plot inspiration, current projects and my favourite from a young chancer – how many books have you sold?

My aim was to inspire and make writing accessible, with a ‘write what you know’ mantra dotted throughout. This paved the way for act two of my visit; a workshop with a smaller group of students around using their lived experience to help bring realism to fictional writing. We focussed on taking the things that we see, hear and feel and placing that in the midst of a fictional ‘Anytown’ – a technique which I utilise within my own writing.

The pupils and staff at Saint Bede’s were so friendly, welcoming and engaged in my visit. I’d like to say a big thanks to Miss Beswick, who organised the whole thing and granted me the opportunity to do something that I love. And of course, the nice cuppa I was greeted with on arrival!

The best bit? Well there are a few, for instance nothing quite beats that lightbulb moment when working with young people, when you can see the cogs turning in their heads and then ‘bam!’ the thing you’re talking about clicks in to place and their imagination bolts free. I have to say though, hearing from a couple of teachers to say that we had some students putting their hands up and contributing to the session – who ordinarily may not be as confident to do so – gave me great pleasure, or hearing that even putting pen to paper was a big deal for some.

I went into my visit to Saint Bede’s unsure of what would materialise. I came out with a clear idea of how I want to structure my school visits in future, with all students having said they enjoyed my workshop…

A sample group of students gave feedback

…I’ve heard from two parents who got in touch via social media to say their kids – both previously averse to reading – had come home from school and asked to order my book as they wanted to read it. After some students purchased books there and then, I later noticed on my online sales dashboard a big spike following my visit… it’s not hard for me to spot as I ordinarily tick along at an average of one or two every few days, so to be greeted with the sight of 15 sales in one day made me extremely happy and proud!

In summary, going back to school to talk about writing was pretty epic to put it lightly. Inspiring young people to read and write is something that warms the soul, making positive networks with lovely people at Saint Bede’s High School was a bonus and the whole experience has left me with a clearer path as to how I want to conduct myself in the world of writing.

I’ve since had positive talks with more schools and have dates booked in. If you’d like to get in touch to discuss an author visit to your school or library, please feel free to do so via email or social media (see Contact page).

Ciao for now people!


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